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Invest to Grow: How accessing funding sped up our growth plans

Hardy Signs

This case study is part of the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce’s Invest to Grow campaign. Invest to Grow aims to inspire and inform businesses around investment in R&D, innovation, technology and machinery and how it can help boost productivity through case studies, expert opinion pieces and briefing information. Click here to find out more and don’t forget to join the conversation on social media with #I2G18. Part 2 of Invest to Grow focuses on investment in technology and machinery and is sponsored by MCS Corporate.

I established Hardy Signs Ltd back in 1993. Since then it grown into one of the most recognised and preferred signage suppliers in the United Kingdom, winning a number of awards along the way.

We operate nationally and have recently begun working in international markets, but we are proud to be based in Burton upon Trent.

When I started Hardy Signs, it was just me and a vinyl cutter in my garage. We celebrated our 25th birthday in August and over the years we have grown both our size and connections to the Burton community.

Hardy Signs now employs over 25 staff and supports a number of local charities. We work closely with Burton and South Derbyshire College on training up and employing the next generation of talented local people. We have even opened a Sign and Print Academy based at the College’s Lichfield Street Campus as a joint venture with the college.

I am also President of Burton Chamber of Commerce, working with the Chamber to champion and support the vibrant local business community.

Throughout the last quarter of a century we have maintained a focus on growth and innovation. This mind-set has come with the benefit of enabling us to tap in to a number of different grants and incentives aimed at growth focused businesses.

For example, in 2017 we invested in a new UV flatbed printer. This printer was considerably larger than our existing one. It was also more efficient, using less ink, less energy, involved no extraction or solvents and cured ink instantly – meaning no need to factor in drying time to production.

We knew that investing in this printer would significantly increase our capacity, enabling us to print bigger “stuff” much quicker. We also knew that it would be a significant upfront cost: approximately £230,000.

Earlier in the year we had heard about an ERDF grant for growth focused companies from the Chamber of Commerce. We decided to explore whether we could apply for support. As we could demonstrate that this investment would enable us to grow our business, we were successful in receiving part-funding. For the remainder, we reinvested finance from within our business and raised finance from our bank. 

We had hoped that this investment would result in an increase in production of at least 50% in year one, and I’m pleased to say that it has surpassed that. We have been able to take on projects we would not have had the capacity for previously (such as producing, delivering and installing printed hoardings for the National Memorial Arboretum).

This project is not the only one we have part financed through grants and public sector funding. We also recently received 60% part funding from SBEN for replacing our old halogen lighting with LED panels. This has significantly reduced our energy bills and cut the amount of CO2 pollution we are responsible for by 2.7 tonnes each year.

We have also been successful in receiving 50% funding for a £40,000 investment in expanding our marketing capability from EDF. This enabled us to hire more employees and continue Hardy Signs’ growth trajectory.

We are currently seeing the benefit of these investments and making sure that we use all of the support available. In 2015/16 our turnover was c.£1m, we are firmly on target to more than double this by the end of this financial year it to £2.5m.

We are continuing to invest in growing our business and are now exploring trading internationally – just last week we delivered our first international project with an organisation in Belgium.

Investing in our business, supported by funding and grants, has enabled us to speed up our businesses’ growth trajectory. Small businesses like ours can be reluctant to put time and energy into looking in to or applying grants and match funding because, rightly or wrongly, they think they won’t get them or fit the criteria. But we now know that there are pots of money out there that can help make ambitious businesses’ plans possible. I would encourage other small businesses to take a look and see if they could benefit themselves.

About Hardy Signs

Hardy Signs Ltd is a professional and experienced company which provides quality products and services to a wide range of business sectors in the United Kingdom.

From our manufacturing headquarters in Burton upon Trent we design, manufacture and ultimately install your signage to exact requirements.

Our portfolio includes a wide range of physical & digital signage for which we offer a complete solution - from project management, installation and maintenance through to content creation and system management.

Celebrating 25 years in business in 2018, Hardy Signs has established itself as a preferred supplier to national organisations throughout many sectors. We combine industry expertise with innovative technology to deliver an unrivalled signage and display service.

Nik Hardy
Founder & Managing Partner
Hardy Signs